Don't test welfare recipients for drug use

There is an old chestnut from statistical and mathematical theory which surmises if you gave infinite time to a roomful of monkeys with typewriters, they would eventually produce a novel.
    A corollary of that notion can be applied to the American Civil Liberties Union, which just filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop the state from requiring drug tests for welfare recipients.  Even if it is blind luck, the ACLU is dead right on this one.  If a clean urine sample is to be a prerequisite for government largesse, then we all better start saving our empty Coke bottles.
    Not me you say?  Think again.  Virtually every one of us gets some sort of state or federal subsidy.  It's just that they are disguised by the mechanism through which they are delivered.
    Let's start with tax deductions.  The IRS, having been directed to encourage human reproduction, allows deductions for children.  A couple making $50,000 a year with two children will write a bigger check to Uncle Sam than will their equal-earning counterparts who have four of the little darlings.
    Then there is that favorite line from Schedule A the mortgage interest deduction.  If a person scrimps and saves to pay cash for their home, the IRS, a la the Soup Nazi, says, "NO deduction for you." Meanwhile, the folks with mortgages on their first homes, mortgages on their vacation homes (and qualifying loans on the old cabin cruiser) happily subtract away.
    That personal property tax on your Mercedes?  You get to deduct that too.  Why shouldn't the government help you out more than the poor schnook in the Chevy Nova?  Leather seats are expensive, dammit.  You deserve a break today.
    Kids in public school are on the dole, too.  The local cathedral of learning is financed by : (1) property taxes, which are paid by all homeowners, whether or not they have ever packed up a Spiderman lunchbox with PB & J and a thermos and waited dutifully for the big yellow bus and (2) state funds, which are the end result of money coughed up by everyone from the guy pumping gas into his car to the blue-haired old lady pumping quarters into the slots down at Ledyard.
    Students (and/or their parents) in Connecticut's state university system are getting their annual nut picked up by the taxpayers to the tune of about $15,000 a year.  Those thirsting for knowledge at private colleges are also benefitting, directly or indirectly, from federal grants and subsidies.  If they ever demand drug-testing for college kids, I'll buy a laboratory and retire in a year.
    A Social Security check is another re-distribution of wealth.   If you are one of those for whom the monthly eagle has landed, you used up what you paid in after about three years of collecting.
    Well sure, you say, but we're entitled to that stuff.  A welfare recipient hooked on drugs doesn't deserve the assistance.
    Why should poor people have to prove they are worthy any more than better-off folks?  A guy can make $250,000 a year and he's allowed to deduct the old sweaters he gives to the Salvation Army, even if that's the only dime he coughs up to charity all year.  Don't tell me he's deserving.
    The tax breaks and subsidies flow to the rest of us no matter if we drink on the job, beat our wives or lie at confession.  So let's not kid ourselves.
    To be sure, drug addiction among welfare recipients is not an unheard of problem, and the government should make available as much help, in the form of treatment, as is possible to them if they want it.
    But unless you think each and everyone of the rest of us should fill up the old jar before receiving a government benefit, you might want to align yourself with the ACLU on this issue. Constitutionally speaking, as in unwarranted searches and equal protection, the State of Michigan doesn't have a pot to pee in.


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October 7, 1999